Milly Shapiro’s character had her head lopped off by a telephone pole, a pivotal scene in Ari Aster’s 2018 horror film Hereditary. As the SUV speeds down the highway driven by her brother, Charlie (Shapiro) is puffy and hyperventilating – the result of an allergic reaction to some peanuts she ate. She sticks her head out of the window, gasping for air. Then – thwack! – decapitation. Her torso lays lifeless in the backseat, her swollen head on the road.
Two years later, and Shapiro is paying tribute to her severed head in a TikTok video. “Who would get decapitated in a car accident when your brother is driving while high and you’re having an allergic reaction to nuts?” a text box reads in the corner of one of her videos. “I am… CEO of the company,” she mouths, in response to the question. In the comments of that post, she playfully answers fans’ questions about how the tumefied noggin was created (a mold of her head was made).
The 17-year-old actress has been able to poke fun at herself since joining TikTok and has quickly amassed over 70k followers on the app. One thing nobody expected: Shapiro to be an e‑girl who was a wizard at makeup. Her looks run the gamut. In one, she playfully winks at the camera with stars stamped on her face; in another, black cobwebs cover her face as she screams “Where’s my Juul?!” in front of a flashing strobe light. Watching her express herself is like watching a lit fuse fizzling towards its climactic explosion.
Needless to say, it’s a departure from the demure teen actor we remember from one of the most disturbing horror films in recent memory. “For child actor standards, it’s an unwritten rule that you have to have a very neutral appearance, so no dyed hair, shaving your eyebrows or piercings or tattoos, or crazy makeup is a big no,” she says over the phone from her home in New York.
TikTok was a way for Shapiro to free herself from the otherwise strict restraints of the repetitive casting process and show another side of her personality. “For me, it was always hard because I always get a lot of comments based on how I look and things that I can’t change about myself [Shapiro was born with a rare bone disorder known as Cleidocranial Dysplasia], and so for me, wearing very extra, different makeup, having extra hair and dressing differently makes me feel more comfortable, because I’m taking control of what I look like.”
After all of this real-life horror, she’ll be heading to college, thanks in part to Ari Aster. “He wrote me a college recommendation letter,” she says, “which I was very happy for.”
ON JOINING TIKTOK
Me and my friend were like, “TikTok’s stupid,” and then we joined it as a joke and, a month or two later, we’re on TikTok like seven or eight hours a day, utterly obsessed. So we got played by the TikTok algorithm, as I like to say. I didn’t start posting until around August or September [last year], and my account was pretty neutral. I didn’t have too many followers, but I didn’t mind because it’s so much fun to do and I was fooling around and having fun with it. Then a couple weeks ago, it all of a sudden blew up. I gained at 20,000 followers and so many views, and it was literally insane and weird. And I was like, “Oh my god.”
ON BEING AN E‑GIRL
I don’t know if I’m an e‑girl or not. I feel like the qualifications are super loose to be an e‑girl, and I feel like I don’t really know how I would classify my style. I wear things that I like, so I thought it was funny when people were calling me an e‑girl. I don’t mind, the e‑girls are cool, I would love to be associated with them, but it’s funny, because some people were like, “No, she just did that for a few videos, it’s all a stunt.” I’m like, “No, that’s just how I dress, guys, I swear.”
ON HER APPEARANCE BEING A FACTOR IN CASTING
As an actor, it’s hard because a lot of the time, what you look like is very important for what you do. You can’t play a younger version of [someone], or someone’s daughter, if you look nothing like them. So it’s really hard when you’re auditioning all the time and getting all these “no”s as a teen, and you’re trying to figure out who you are. A lot of the time, you’ll get feedback like, “We love you, but you’re not ultimately fit for this role,” but they never say why. As a teen you’re always like, “Oh god, it’s me!” If the love for [acting] outweighs the non-enjoyable part, you’ll keep doing it, and I feel like for me, acting is something that I love with all my heart, that even when it’s really hard or really complicated, I still want to do it.
ON BEING KNOWN FOR HER ROLE IN HEREDITARY
I don’t mind it. I love Hereditary, I’m always gonna be eternally grateful that I was given the opportunity to be a part of that, and it’s such a great film. I’m happy that people see me as the Hereditary girl. But as an actor, it’s always hard, because a lot of the time when you’re different than your character, people are like, “What? That’s weird,” and you’re like, “I’m not the character, I swear!”
ON FINDING HER CONFIDENCE
Being confident takes work. I was definitely nowhere near this confident even last year at this time. It took me a long time to feel very confident and start dressing differently, and when I was in early high school, middle school, like right before I filmed Hereditary and during, I would only wear baggy T‑shirts and baggy jeans and I would not want anyone to look at me. Now I’m the complete opposite, and it took me a while to get to that point, so even if you’re not feeling confident, you can get there. You don’t have to push yourself, and knowing that you’re not alone when you feel awkward or terrible, and knowing that feeling confident is something that only you can give yourself really helps you pull through.